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18 awesome Christmas gifts for gamers, from board games to Mario merch and beyond

'Tis the season to treat the loved ones in your life to the very best Christmas gifts for gamers, and 2018 has brought a metric ton of them to every retailer on the planet. Now more than ever, niche, nerdy gifts are very much in vogue, which is great luck for those of us who either are nerds ourselves or are shopping for the geeks in our lives this holiday. The embarrassment of riches also means, inevitably, a lot of the stuff we're getting is really high quality - competition has a way of weeding out the trash (or some of it, at least). 

It's pretty easy to find a copy of Red Dead Redemption 2 or Spider-man for the gamer on your list, so we've focused on Christmas gifts for gamers that are a little more obscure, some of the really fun stuff tucked into the corners of our hobbies that make great stocking stuffers or big main event gifts. So if you're looking for tabletop games, Mario merch, or cool figurines, look no further: we've plumbed the depths of the holiday gift blitz and surfaced with fistfuls of amazing goodies, all perfectly calibrated to tickle the pleasure-centers of your favorite gamer's brain. Of course, if you want to really treat the PC gamer in your life, check out our guide to the best gaming PC you can tuck under the tree, and toss in the best gaming keyboard to go with their new 'you're my favorite human now' bribe. 

US gifts are up top, jump straight to UK gifts here.

US gifts for gamers

Dark Souls - Artorias the Abysswalker figure

$31.16 at Amazon

Dark Souls is one of the most distinctive looking games of the last few console generations (and one of the most popular), so it's no surprise there's a ton of merch available for it that takes advantage of its gloomy art style. This figurine from Banpresto is one of the cooler looking items we've seen come out of the Dark Souls universe, a  beautifully detailed rendering of corrupted knight Artorias, the Darkwraith hunter and star of his own DLC pack.

Destiny Grimoire Anthology, Volume 1

$16.50 at Amazon

Like a lot of people playing my way through the original Destiny, one of my main frustrations was having to leave the game and dig through grimoire cards on Bungie's poorly organized website to uncover some of the tastiest bits of story and lore. Multiple times I found myself wishing they were all neatly collected into one tidy volume and, finally, Bungie has granted my wish. This handsome imitation leather volume, adorned with a distinctive gold gilt coat of arms, collects the history of the Hive and a bunch of peripheral characters who had a major impact on the greater Destiny universe. At 144 pages, it's a wonderfully deep dive into some of the stories that shape one of the most popular game franchises of all time.

Monopoly Gamer Mario Kart

$15.12 at Amazon

There's always that moment of paralysis around the holidays when you and your distance relatives have finished catching up on your work and personal lives, but there are still hours left in the day and only mediocre basketball to watch on TV. Instead of gazing into the middle distance gripped with existential dread, fill those hours with a fun game of Mario Kart Monopoly! Boost around the board, drop banana peels, and pick up coins as all of your favorite Marios while you regale your terrified, awe-struck family with a lengthy disquisition on the origin and meaning of Bowsette.

Asteroids Arcade Machine

$199 at Walmart

Anyone who grew up in the arcades of the 80s and 90s has yearned for an arcade cabinet of their own, but by the time you reach adulthood you begin to understand the logistical challenges of fulfilling that youthful dream. Arcade1Up has the solution: a cabinet that's large enough to feel authentic while being compact enough to easily ship and move (and that won't take up a full tenth of your apartment). You can get the Asteroids version for $199, but there are also comes in Galaga, Pacman, Street Fighter 2, and a variety of other flavors at the $299 mark; not cheap, but a small price to pay to satisfy a decades old fantasy.

PlayStation Classic

$99.99 at Walmart

Look, we know - the PlayStation Classic is not a perfect console. But for the right person, it is a concentrated pill of nostalgia and joy. It may be missing a couple of the best PS1 games but it compensates for it by packing in a broad, varied assortment of really amazing titles from the era, and in such a cute, compact package, it makes for a really incredible gift. If you've got a PlayStation fan on your gift list and they've already got all the latest and greatest PS games/consoles, this one is a no-brainer.

Harry Potter Hard Cover Boxed Set

$125.99 at Walmart

Ok, so this one's not specifically tailored for gamers, but we all know there's a huge crossover between fans of games and fans of teen wizards. Especially now that potential details for a Harry Potter MMO have leaked, the wizard world of Hogwarts and the magical world of gaming have never been more interlinked. And with the Crimes of Grindelwald currently savaging Harry Potter fan's nostalgia at the box office, there's never been a better time to revisit the classic originals and remember why they loved this series in the first place. 

Nintendo Switch bundle with Mario Tennis Aces and 1-2 Switch

$359.96 at Walmart

So this one is maybe a little obvious, being one of the hottest items this holiday, but it's hard to imagine a gamer who doesn't already own a Switch who wouldn't be absolutely delighted to find one under the tree (or whatever plant/inanimate object around which you choose to celebrate your holidays). And this particular package also comes with a pair of games that are both very multiplayer friendly, so you'll have another great way to stave off any awkwardness with the in-laws during their obligatory visit. 

D&D Mimic Pendant Necklace

$54.99 at ThinkGeek

Everyone's favorite fantasy bastards, the mimic is a sly little beastie that pretends to be a treasure chest full of invaluable loot and then, when you go to scoop up its contents, reveals it horror maw full of razor sharp teeth (and, optionally, dripping, venom-coated tongue). Lovingly recreated in this pendant, the mimic necklace is the perfect way to tell someone close that you like them very much...but also find them incredibly, comically dangerous. Presumably in a good way.

Descent: Journeys in the Dark board game

$71.35 at Amazon

There's been a rash in the last few years of games that are a sort of hybrid between what we traditionally think of as board games and tabletop role-playing a la Dungeons and Dragons. Descent is a strong entry in that tradition, a cooperative game for two to five players where you delve into ancient dungeons in a quest for loot, and can retain your character across multiple adventures, adding new skills, gear, and abilities. It's a very cool, very fun (and surprisingly deep) option for when you want to play something like D&D but don't want to do all the leg work of world building and dungeon-mastering.

Pokemon: Let's Go, Eevee! with Poke Ball

$99.99 at Walmart

One of the best Pokemon games in years, this newbie friendly pocket monster adventure (which still respects Poke-veterans) also comes with Nintendo's fun accessory, the Poke Ball. It's a faithful replica of the in-game mainstay, which via some rudimentary motion controls and a simplified control scheme lets you play through the entire game without ever picking up a traditional controller. If you've got a Pokemon lover in your life who hasn't gotten themselves a copy of Let's Go yet, this is a 100% guaranteed lid-flipper.

Dungeons and Dragons Core Set

$85.24 at Amazon

If the recent resurgence of D&D's popularity (or one of the many actual play, live streamed games on Twitch) has piqued your interest in D&D, or the interest of somebody on your gift list, this special edition gift set is an awesome package. You get foil cover versions of all three core manuals - the Player's Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide, and Monster's Manual - as well as a DM's screen, all packed into a sweet little slipcase. It's everything, other than some paper and dice, you'll need to play, and the current edition, 5th, is one of the most fun and approachable to come out in decades, a return to the delicious core of D&D after an unfortunate card/miniatures detour in 4th. 

Blood, Sweat, and Pixels: The Triumphant, Turbulent Stories Behind How Video Games Are Made

$14.39 (or $10.99 for the Kindle edition) at Amazon

For anyone who's ever been curious about what goes on behind the scenes at the world's largest game development studios, Jason Schreier's exhaustive deep dive is a treasure. Given unprecedented access to some of the world's most high-profile devs, Blood, Sweat, and Pixels explores the stories behind massive triple-A titles like Diablo 3 and Dragon Age: Inquisition, as well smaller indies like Stardew Valley, to expose the messy, often brutal process of birthing a game into the world.

Ticket to Ride board game

$41.99 at Amazon

One of the most beloved and well-known specialty board games of all time (and easily one of the most charming), Ticket to Ride tasks players with developing rail lines to major American cities in a competition to become the dominant train baron of US industry. It's festooned with colorful maps, pieces, and tokens, and delightful artwork featuring turn-of-the-century accoutrement to whisk players back to a simpler time, when capitalism still seemed like a grand and promising idea. 

UK gifts for gamers

Mario Heat Changing Mug

£7.27 at Amazon

Nintendo merch is always incredibly giftable (and in no short supply around the holidays), and this heat changing mug is one of the more interesting gifts we've seen pop up this season. It features the eponymous plumber bouncing out of one of those signature pipes and, when you fill it up with something hot, shows him through a keyhole cutout. It even comes in a cool red box featuring Mario's massive smiling, ahem, mug.

Pikachu Piggy Bank

£17.99 at Amazon

For the especially frugal child in your life, or any Pokemon-loving adult, this Pikachu piggy bank is oddly practical, mind-meltingly adorable is an obvious choice. Drop your coins on the little yellow pad and the avaricious pocket monster emerges from his endless slumber to squirrel away your cash. Here's hoping there's some way to actually get it back without having to engage in mortal combat with the tiny electric rodent. 

Game Boy Money Box

£7.27 at Amazon

You've got to stash your change somewhere, so why not in this adorable little Game Boy styled coin box, which you can grab at Amazon for likely less quid than it would take to fill it up. It's got an authentic-looking Game Boy face, complete with a green-tinted screen depicting everyone's favorite goomba smasher grabbing some of the very dosh you should be stashing in the box (though if you're actually collecting gold coins, I strongly recommend you find some slightly more secure storage). 

Super Mario Question Block Light

£14.99 at Amazon

The holidays can be a gloomy time for some, so dispel some of that encroaching darkness with this playful, Mario-inspired question block light. It won't just fend off the shadows with tasteful mood lighting and classic Mario sound effects, but the prospect that it might be filled with an enchanted mushroom that will make you taller and stronger will surely help keep those inevitable feelings of smallness and insignificance that occasionally pop up this time of year at bay. 

NES Cartridge Coasters

£4.99 at Amazon

Relive your childhood and protect your precious tabletops with this cool collection of Nintendo Entertainment System cartridge coasters. Emblazoned with accurate reproductions of the cartridge art, they're a perfect gift for anyone that grew up playing Nintendo games and...drinking...beverages.

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